Vaccine Bill that Removes Religious Exemption Expected to Draw Debate

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State lawmakers are set to hear from parents this week on a bill that would get rid of religious exemptions for vaccinations in Connecticut.

NBC Connecticut spoke with a pediatrician who says vaccines are a way to keep protecting against illnesses not seen anymore, while the head of the Connecticut Chiropractic Council says parents shouldn’t be forced into vaccinations for their children.

“This is all in the wake of no outbreak, no concern for contamination or contagions,” said Dr. Jason Jenkins, president of the Connecticut Chiropractic Council. “This is really unwarranted.”

His group is one of several planning to speak against the bill in Hartford on Wednesday.

“I’m not telling someone else how to practice their belief system, but the state really shouldn’t tell us how to practice ours.”

The bill would leave only medical exemptions for children whose immune systems are compromised, who have cancer, or who have had an adverse reaction to vaccination in the past. The last reason is one Dr. Richard Uluski hasn’t seen very often.

“I have in my career seen it, but it’s incredibly rare. I think the statistical number is one in a million,” said Uluski, a pediatrician at Pediatric and Medical Associates.

He says he welcomes the vaccine conversations that take place at his office. He often reviews research parents have done on their own, and he points them to studies by the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“I’ll be able to say what the statistics are behind it, what the benefits are, what the risks are if you want to hear about that,” said Uluski. “And at the end sometimes I’ll say if you want more data, the CDC has a great website, the American Academy of Pediatrics has a great website about data and research and studies.”

He says like other pediatricians in the state, his office has a policy for vaccines, similar to those for schools.

“It’s our policy that you have to vaccinate your child in order to come to this practice,” he said. “It’s not only for the safety of your child but also the children waiting in the waiting room.”

Jimmy Tran says that was the policy at the doctor’s office for his 3-week-old twins, and he says it’s a good one.

“My kids can’t get any vaccinations yet and I go to a doctor’s office and a kid hasn’t gotten vaccinated and they give something to my kids, then there’s a bigger problem,” said Tran. “And I don’t think it’s fair for my kids to have to deal with that.”

Jan Anderson is mom to 1-year old Graham, and says people may have become too comfortable with vaccines.

“I feel like because we live in a time where we don’t have things like polio that are killing our children and mumps and measles, people don’t appreciate vaccines the way our grandparents do,” said Anderson.

Questions still persist for Jenkins, including one often asked about unvaccinated children being around others who have followed the vaccine schedule.

“If you choose to vaccinate, then why wouldn’t you hold confidence that your child is safe from those who aren’t vaccinated?”

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